Monday, August 15, 2011

Who are the people in your neighborhood???

DAVE: Today started out like any other day on our mission in Moscow. We woke up on our normal schedule, which means, I woke up a couple of hours earlier than Becky. When Becky awoke we prayed in Russian and studied the Book of Mormon, then showered, shaved, ate breakfast (or at least I did) and brushed our teeth. We dressed and headed for the door.
Our door is interesting. We have a regular wooden front door, and the metal walk-in safe. The safe door has to be unlocked with two keys. There is no other way. I don’t think you could break into this door without a ramrod and several people, not even the strongest man on earth could do it alone.
We exited to the left, which is our normal way through the parking lot and onto the street. We first pass a pre-school on the right and the Art Village on the left. The Art Village has homes, some very large. These homes must be worth a great deal of money being in the heart of Moscow. We pass one home every day, which is very large and appears to have a guard tower/home on the far corner of the yard. This home is the fourth house from the corner. The fence around the home is about 12 feet high with cameras placed every few feet overlooking the sidewalk.
Many times we have seen very large (not fat) men waiting by the gate. They are usually in a black SUV Cadillac or a black Van. They are dressed in suits with a dark shirt and no tie. Often we joke about the house as the Mafia house.
Today seemed normal as we walked our first few steps on the path we have taken almost every day. We noticed the same van parked on the school side of the road and not in its normal place across the street by the Mafia house. As we approached, a soldier exited the vehicle with an AK-47 looking rifle on his shoulder and a sidearm attached to his hip. We slowed just a bit when we saw the solider, but kept walking. When another one of the large men stepped out of the van with a pistol in his hand. I stopped or hesitated since we were almost to him when we noticed the pistol. My first instinct was to protect Becky. What should we do? Cross the street? Turn around? Run away? No, we just calmly passed the man with the handgun. We noticed as we passed him he had opened the handle. Becky believes the pistol was not loaded, since the gun seemed to come apart like a transformer toy, but that didn’t stop the heart from racing. As we approached the soldier we noticed he had reached into his car and pulled out body armor.
What was going down? We acted like nothing was out of the ordinary, just two Mormon Missionaries walking to their mission assignment, enjoying the cool morning, and everything was as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Our demeanor was cool and calm, except for our racing hearts which didn’t slow down for many minutes. We arrived at our post and enjoyed a great day serving the Lord.

BECKY: I saw something today that I would never in a million years see in Springville Utah…okay maybe if CSI or NCIS (two cop shows on TV came to town to film-) MAYBE! Dave and I had headed down the street from our apartment in front of the kindergarten/preschool. This is a place where dads and moms bring their cute little kids each day all dressed for the weather. We looked up and saw the black Chevy van parked on the sidewalk in front of the school - not in its normal parking spot. This van is very low riding-with blacked out windows-and very shiny and looks very out of place with the small children walking by. Standing outside the passenger door was this heavy set scary looking dude (actually he wasn’t menacing at first glance) anyway, this guy was holding the biggest blackest handgun I have ever seen. He was kind of inspecting it and I think we sorta scared or surprised him. He jerked – but thankfully he didn’t aim the gun at us or shoot us or anything like that. He started to bring the gun down and then it seemed like he changed his mind and figured we had seen his “toy” – Why try to hide it? So he brought it up again and flipped open the handle, checked out the clip and then thankfully by this time we had passed the big black Chevy van. We kept walking – wondering if we were in big trouble – and we passed by another car – the trunk was open and another guy was taking out a bullet proof vest out of the trunk …this was to go along with his attire of camouflage, and his AK47 hung over his shoulder. We of course talked about it all the way to work at the Service Center ---but let me back up a bit.

I have seen this black van in our neighborhood before, across from the school is a compound - a 12' high fence surrounds this compound and inside the compound (at least what we can see over the fence from our apt. window and from the sidewalk) is a huge white house and several other buildings and a guard tower with lots of wires and communication devices attached to it. There is nothing really different about this house-it has lace curtains on some of the windows - but it is gigantic and has a few satellite dishes and lots of survellience equipment on the perimeters of the 12foot high fence and cameras - Did I say lots of cameras? This is what we can see...what we can't see is the size of the barking guard dog, or the security guys who watch us from their cameras as we walk past the fence...really - we can hear the cameras rotating as we walk under those "eye in the sky" type of secuirty cameras and there are stationary ones directed towards the entrances in the fence.

A few days after we moved in, the black Chevy van was parked near the entrance of the 12' high fence. There were some guys kinda forming a welcome line (or a line of protection) to the doors of the van. A couple of men exited the compound - got in the van- and were quickly followed by the protection detail - the doors slammed and then it drove off quickly following a lead car as it drove away. Behind the van was an ordinary looking purple car (I loved the color of this car) following closely with two scary looking men in the front seat. We laughed about it that day and dubbed the house "The Mafia House"...all the way to work we talked about the "Mafia House" and wondered about the family who lives there. On the way home that afternoon I jokingly asked Dave if I should wave since I knew I was being watched.

NOT ON THIS DAY - AUGUST 2, 2011. I was grateful it was raining on the way home from work this day - and we could cover our missionary attire with our umbrellas. But then I remembered that I had the one that says "GENEVA ROCK a Clyde Company" on it. Then I worried that they would remember the logo and always know it is us the ones who saw the guys with the guns...I never worried they might see our Missionary name tags and recognize us...just the blue and gold umbrella with the GR logo.

I have never seen Dave pause in situations which make me uncomfortable like when he did the little dance on Red Square the first time we came to Russia. Adam told us not to talk and there is Dave exclaiming to everyone within hearing range "I can't believe I am on RED SQUARE" fear...but on this day when we saw those guns he hesitated and moved nearer to me - to protect me - I would say it is a good thing we were both carrying our umbrellas...

Post script: since we put this blog post together we have seen a few details we missed are two identical houses with cameras, high fences etc. which are separated by two smaller homes...but are in the same compound . The black van backed into the other house we didn't know was also a "mafia" house thereby alerting us to this new fact. We will keep you updated on any new developments.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Taking a walk around Russia

Dave: Where is our work place? It is usually at the LDS church's building called the Service Center but our work can take us to the airport, the metro or the train. Where ever our work is...we walk.
When we first arrived in Russia we were deposited at the Art Hotel (very Dave like-don't you think?) until we could find an apartment. After checking into the hotel, we were taken to the Service Center. Walking from the Service Center to our hotel started out a little different than normal. The Budd's were kind enough to help us figure out a route to our hotel. I
looked at the map with Elder Budd and he was showing me which streets we would need to travel on until we arrived at the hotel. It was obvious he hadn't walked in that area before, but he seemed to know what he was doing and volunteered to walk with us. After an hour or two at work, we all headed out for the hotel. We were so grateful to them for doling this for us...they lived a half hour in the opposite direction. We walked, then we walked, then we walked some more. Finally, after an hour and a half we arrived at our hotel. (we only had to ask directions one time). The Budd's left us then and walked another hour to their apartment.
Luckily, the next morning a driver picked us up because our assignment for the morning was away from the service center. That evening we were dead tired from jet lag, but we studied the map and decided we could walk a completely different route which would take us through two parks and a short walk on the streets. We headed out. In just 45 minutes we were back at our hotel. After we gained a little energy and got over our jet lag we started to make the same walk in 35 minutes each way.
It was a very nice walk through the parks. It was the beginning of summer and people were out with families and friends. In the park, children were still playing at 9:30 at night. Friends gathered, and in Russia, vodka and beer are always close at hand (both are much cheaper to buy than drinking water). Every morning the park would be littered with bottles and cigarette butts, but there were plenty of park workers in the park and a few were working. By evening the park was neat and orderly and families and friends began congregating again. The pattern repeated itself every day.
When we found an apartment our commute was greatly reduced. We now walk only ten minutes to work or twenty minutes to the metro. If we walk to the service center it is still twenty minutes to the metro. Most of the places to purchase food are by the metro, so if we go to lunch we walk 20 minutes to lunch and 20 minutes back.
What we see on the way to work is enhanced by the stories we tell each other of what we observe. But to put it in more boring terms; we see a giant preschool and some very large homes, in a very expensive place called the Art Village. Mikhail Gorbechev, the last leader of the Soviet Union lives in this village. Which house? We think we have it figured out but really we have no clue. There is also a house we call the "Mafia House" (we will tell you more about this one in a later blog). We see one man every day - picking up leaves and sweeping the long sidewalks around the very expensive homes. He is very interesting all by himself...He has a weathered and worn face from much toil and work. (He has a hump on his back which adds to Hollywood's interpretation of what an Igor should look like). We say good morning in Russian to him almost daily and he mumbles the same. We also pass a playground or two and in the evening there are usually children playing and mothers or grandparents watching patiently. Becky loves this part of the walk the most.
When we go to the Metro we pass several small stores full of fruit, vegetables, meat, groceries, etc. There is usually someone passing out pamphlets and papers to advertise sales of clothing, eye glass exams and products, or some kind of program. We do have a couple of small parks we walk through, but try not to go through them after dark We pass some beggars close to a Russian church. There are some old women selling what they have produced in a garden somewhere. They only have a few items to sell, we think they must have great need for the money and try for hours to sell their onions, carrots, beets, or flowers. We arrive at the metro and are whisked away until we arrive at our destination and then we walk again. We seem to be getting stronger as time goes by.
Becky : I became a fan of walking on 22 June 2011. It wasn't because we had nothing else to cheer for - nor was it because we wanted to ---NOT NECESSARILY...It was out of NECESSITY - HOORAY!!! LET'S WALK! If we want to get anywhere - the metro, or market, the church, or to work - we WALK! More than a couple of times in the July heat I hummed..."Pioneer Children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked..." (I didn't sing it aloud because that would be very strange here). I determined I wouldn't have made a very good pioneer but it helped me to put one foot in front of the other and we got to where ever it was we were going.
Walking in Russia is quite an ART...Do you think the shortest distance between two points is a straight line? Not so here in Russia. We do not walk a fast as those here...we are slow when we walk - mostly because we don't know the way and are not sure of what lay in the path ahead. We turn right - through breeze ways, alley ways, along dirt paths, between short buildings and tall ones, then we turn left - through the carts of food, around fences, behind one building and then another, along side the railroad tracks, cross over the tracks and back again ... until we find our way.
Maps are ok - and are sometimes quite helpful to tell us which street we may be approaching as we twist and turn and straight away find the fastest shortest route possible. It doesn't always work out though when using a map...our first night in Russia we took the long way (NOT THE WRONG WAY) back to our hotel. We sometimes say it is the "scenic route" or a "Short cut" - but for most of the time I said we were "LOST". We determined, after the first night we could cut down our hour and a half walk to the hotel by going through the parks and we predicted (more like prayed) it might take us an hour. Much to our delight - and my relief - it took about 40 minutes and we made better time every day after. The parks were beautiful with fountains and flowers, and children playing along the tree lined pathways.
My feet complained (LOUDLY) and I was ready to whine "Are we there yet" but I knew better. I needed to buy some better walking shoes after the first few days and many blisters. (yep! we walked to the shoe store).
We have found it is very important to watch where you walk and take great care...(I learned this lesson the hard way when I twisted my ankle and fell...and after it swelled and turned black and blue it was difficult to walk for almost three weeks) and I wasn't a big fan of Walking back then.
But...we have no option...we keep walking using much more caution - and we get where we are going through the maze of fences and gates-cracks and dips-holes in the sidewalk...and we step over the pipes and the trenches-and we miss the mud, and the puddles the best we can...We just keep walking - especially if we want to get where ever it is we are going...and at the end of the day we rest and our feet are happy feet...
And the next day when the sun comes up - we start the day ... BY TAKING A WALK!

Monday, August 8, 2011

What its all about...

Becky: I have been trying to find a way to involve myself in our mission...Dave seems to always be studying Russian or busy getting ready to conduct audits or preparing for the training which we will do...I have felt somewhat alone and unable to determine where I after some prayer and pondering...the answer came.
We have been called together to serve this mission - there are many things we do together - but we see things from different points of view - so we will record all of the many interesting observations we make about living here in Russia and share them with everyone on our Mission... Possible Blog.
Dave: I think this is a great idea and I am all for it...I feel it is inspired where we can do a lot of learning together and spending time together...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Spreading the words

Dave has given out three pass along cards to people who were curious about us. Pass along cards are written in Russian and give a quick look about our beliefs in Jesus Christ and the restoration of the Gospel. Often people we see on the metro will look at our name tags and when we notice them reading them- they drop their eyes and act like they never looked at us at all. If they glance back again - Dave will catch their eyes and he will offer them a pass along card.

His first pass along experience was given to a nicely dressed young lady. We were riding the metro and she couldn't stop looking at his name tag so he extended the pass-along card to her. She nodded a Russian thank you and looked at the brochure and started to read. She read the entire brochure, then our stop came and we left the train. He looked back at her and she smiled (which is very unusual for the Russian people) and said an audible thank you (spaceebah).

The next one he gave away was on the same day, the return trip on the metro, to an older man who was probably just younger than Dave, he again seemed interested in our name tags and so Dave offered him a card. He looked at it, tucked it into his shirt pocket and buttoned his pocket for safe keeping. Who knows what will happen?

Today on the metro, on our way to church was much more fun. Dave has been trying to memorize the Articles of Faith in Russian and he had the Russian copy in his hand - there was a young man who kept looking at the paper, and seemed to be reading along with Dave. He leaned in to read the words. He leaned in still closer and talked to Dave (unfortunately Dave only understood a few words)- Dave offered him a pass along card with a beautiful picture of the Savior on it (all printed in Russian of course). The young man took the card and then Dave grinned - and then Dave asked the young man how to pronounce one of the words. The man told him and began to read the Articles of Faith again...he read the 4th...and then he read it out loud. It was as if this was a brand new concept to him so Dave handed him the copy of the Articles of Faith and the young man accepted, very pleased to get it. Dave glanced across the aisle with a grin and his mind working figured - if he would accept the copied version of the Articles of Faith what did he have to lose by giving him a Book of Mormon? So in Dave's carefully (yet stilted worded Russian) Dave told him he wanted to give him a special gift, "A book" and handed him a Book of Mormon. The look of pleasure really said everything...he looked incredulous and then gathered the book to his chest as if it were the most precious thing anyone had ever given him. Dave was going to ask his name and contact information but we came to a stop and he was gone. was incredible, inspiring and amazing all at the same time.

It is a great work we are involved in, spreading these words of truth and hope.

But the story didn't begin on the metro on the way to actually began in the morning while getting the backpack ready. Dave usually packs it as light as possible for the overland trek - with scriptures,hymn-books, notebooks etc.-the weight can sometimes seem heavy...however, this morning Dave felt a need to pack the Russian Book of Mormon...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"short stuff..."

Our mission so far has been an adventure...for the first week we were in a jet lag blur, the second week is getting better...we are finding our way from point A to Point B, learning to go through the correct metro stall (otherwise it attacks you), learning to navigate the many zillion cracks, pot holes and chasms (on the walkways) and anxious to hear from family and friends.

Our mailing address is: for letters and postcards
Elder David and Sister Rebecca Cook
Europe East Area Pouch
50 East North Temple Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

Our mailing address: for packages
Elder David and Sister Rebecca Cook
Russian Moscow Mission
Moskva #101000
Galvpochtampt ayai 257
Moscow Russia

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Dave's family at the gathering at our home following our farewell Sunday May 29th 2011.
L-R Glenn, Christine, (Father) Vernon Osmond, Nan, Philip, and Dave. Missing from picture is Catharine (left earlier) and Bruce (in California)

On June 13th 2011 we enter the Missionary Training Center in Provo Utah to continue our service in the Church. We will serve approximately

718 days which equals 102 weeks which equals 17,232 hours which is equal to 1,033,902 minutes which adds up to 62,035,200 seconds.
When you look at it that way - We are so grateful it will be 1 day at a time -
one day filled with "Faith in Every Footstep"

Monday, April 25, 2011


Two different views

Dave: First, we weren’t blown to smithereens when two burners were turned on by accident just before Becky and I went to bed. Becky who seldom wakes during the night awoke around 2:00 a.m. and smelled gas throughout the house. She woke me up and together we went to investigate. We immediately opened all the doors and windows we could, and aired out the house. The gas itself seemed to choke us. After the house was ventilated we returned to bed, pausing to thank our Heavenly Father for yet another miracle.

Becky: May I begin by saying it wasn’t exactly my fault – Perhaps 99.99% of it was. Leaving the gas stove turned on, two burners without flames to temper the gas - actually happened because someone wanted dinner. I was cooking it, working to get it completed at the same time so everything was hot and ready and we could sit down together, Dave, my dad, and I. I turned one burner down low to simmer and the flame went out. I took the food to the table and didn’t check the stove. We ate and cleaned up, as I washed off the stove - that was when the second burner was turned on – accidentally. The towel must have gotten caught on the knob and turned it on. Lights out, we headed to bed after saying good night to my dad, he headed down to his room in the basement. About 1:30 in the morning, I woke up with a start. I lay there for a few moments and I knew something wasn’t right. I could smell rotten eggs. Our bedroom is upstairs and somehow the smell rose. I got up and checked the main floor. As soon as I walked into the kitchen I could hear the hiss of the burner. I turned it off, and hurried to open a window; shaking and scared the furnace might turn on, which creates a spark. I could still hear a hissing sound so leaving the house dark, I checked the stove again, too afraid to turn on a light for fear the house would blow up. (I know, I watch too many television disaster and emergency shows). The burner on the right was on 'high'. I went upstairs to wake Dave, stopping on the way, to open the front door which allowed a very cold breeze to fill the front of the house. I woke up Dave, and asked him to go and check on my dad. Gas filled the entire main floor. I know from all of the Emergency Preparedness studying we have done, natural gas stays close to the ground and doesn’t rise. I worried it had seeped down the basement and dad might have been in trouble. Dad slept peacefully, unaware of all the drama. This was a close call but a miracle all the same for the Cook family.

I too, was grateful for this miracle in our lives - but do you think it is possible Dave actually thought the miracle was - I was doing the cooking?

Dave, I know where Russia is but where on the map is Smithereens?

Dave: Second, our family experienced another miracle, when our oldest daughter Tiffany, with her husband Troy, received their endowments in the Salt Lake Temple. On March 26, 2011 they were sealed for time and all eternity in the Draper, Utah Temple. Together, we watched as all of our children and their spouses attended these wonderful events. I am not able to express all within my heart of the great feelings of love, gratitude and beauty which attended us, as we worshiped in the House of the Lord with all of our adult children and their spouses.

Some of the events were beyond earthly experience. The spirit of the Lord seemed to be everywhere present. Days before, several of Becky’s family expressed their support and happiness when they heard Tiffany and Troy were to be sealed in the Temple. Jean, our sister – in – law, began to cry when she heard, feeling deeply of the spirit and knowing how important this would be to Tiffany, Troy and to us. Todd, Becky's brother, told Tiffany he was "proud of her" for taking this important step in her life. The support the family has given throughout our mission preparations, and towards our family, has been phenomenal and so much appreciated.

On Friday evening, March 25, 2011, our family assembled in the Salt Lake Temple to participate with Troy and Tiffany as they received their endowments. Members of our family present were: Vernon O. Cook, my father; Nan and Bruce Oblad, my sister and brother-in-law; Catharine Rasband, my sister; our niece, Patti Cook (also a member of Tiffany and Troy’s ward - who left Jed, her husband, home to watch their children) as well as each of our children with their spouses: Tiffany and Troy (of course), Cynthia and Alan Nelson, Jenny and John Norton, Adam and Heather Cook, Liz and Kori Moore, and Kimberly and Chris Saling. Looking around when I entered the celestial room, after the session, I could see all my family there, but had to search for Alan and Cynthia for a few minutes because they were sitting behind a group of people. I don’t know if this experience will ever be duplicated - for many years - or even in my life time.

The following morning we assembled again to witness the sealing in the Draper Utah Temple. What a wonderful showing of support for this spiritual event which was to come to pass. Those attending were: each of our children and their spouses, Aunts and Uncles; Nan and Bruce Oblad, Catharine and Roy Rasband, Christine and Steve Christensen, Cousins; Jed Cook (trading places with Patti this time) Tristan Nielson, and Alexis Matson (Phil and Charlottes daughters), Paul and Sharon Norton (Jenny’s in-laws) and many friends and family of the Stark’s.

Becky: What a wonderful few days for our family to be together and share in this happy occasion. Our entire family within sacred temple walls… It was my choice opportunity to escort Tiffany as she went through the endowment and to help her prepare for the sealing. She was so nervous, and occasionally I whispered for her to take a deep breath, but she did very well. It was a day filled with emotions…as Tiffany and I walked into the room before the session began I got to look into the beautiful faces of each of my daughters, filling a row, side by side sisters in this life and the next…and then to sit and look across the room to see each of my sons, and Dave, my eternal companion, the father of my children…and next to him, sat his Father, my Father – in – law, Vernon Osmond Cook. What a handsome group of men, shoulder to shoulder, all worthy priesthood holders, these fathers in my life – they inspire me, and make me want to be a better person.

(Yes, I started to cry, and Adam, who was watching me, gave me one of his looks - where he rolls his eyes - and shakes his head a little bit – his body language says, “Aw, mom…don’t start crying now”) I was just so happy.

It was wonderful to be in the temple. To see how each of our children have grown into caring and responsible adults, are examples of righteousness, and who love and serve the Lord. The paths we travel in our lives won’t always be paved and smooth, but at least now we are all on the right path.

On Saturday, it was windy and cold, and the sun played peekaboo with the clouds, but it was a beautiful day full of warmth and love with family and friends. I think the word I would use to describe the past few days would be ‘serene’. All seemed right in the world for the moment…

Thanks Tiffany and Troy for providing us with this miracle.

11 of our 13 grandchildren who were at the temple, brave enough to sit for a picture in the freezing wind and cold at the Draper Temple March 26, 2011
(L-R) Austin, Garrett, Spencer, Colin, Mackey, Jared, Matthew, Alexa, Brooklyn, Emilee,Kellie...Isabella was in the car getting warm and so was little Brayden.
(we missed David, Kylie, Natasha and Cristian)

It was soooooo cold! Liz, Kori, Alan, John, Jenny, (me in the black coat) and Adam - "Chilling" at the temple.